Currently in the UK the law allows parents to home educate or home school their child at any age. The law is not prescriptive and parents are not obliged to follow the national curriculum, the government simply states that children must receive a full-time education from the age of 5.
In the 1996 Education Act, Section 7, Home Education is afforded equal status with schools in England and Wales:
“The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full time education suitable a) to his age ability and aptitude, and b) any special educational needs he may have, either by attendance at a school or otherwise”.
Here ‘otherwise’ refers to the right to home educate your child.
Numerous families – Muslim, Christian and non-religious – are already home educating their children both here in the UK and around the world, as it provides an enriching and truly educational experience that can be tailored to the needs of the individual child.
Contrary to popular belief (or myth), home education provides the child with numerous opportunities to socialise and form lifelong friendships especially when families join together to share home educating responsibilities and experiences. There are numerous home educating support groups, networks and regular meet ups and activities that families home educating their children can join and connect with.
Many parents worry that they need to have teaching experience or a wide knowledge base in order to educate their child. This really is not the case. Depending on the age of your child there are resources available to help you, and you can learn alongside your child as you teach them, or for older children where more specialist knowledge is required you can always hire a tutor. Communities can pool their resources together so that parents can call on others with knowledge and expertise in different subjects such as maths, english, science and so on, to help families educate home educated children. This could be arranged for groups of children or arranged individually.
It is important for parents to remember though, that they do not have to follow the national curriculum. You are currently free to teach your child what you want, when you want, and how you want. Some families may choose more formal methods such as using workbooks and internet sites that map onto the national curriculum. Other families adopt a more informal or ‘free range’ approach and educate children more indirectly such as by travelling, involving children in daily tasks such as shopping, growing vegetables, reading newspapers and through the daily experiences of family life. Subjects such as maths, literacy and science etc can all easily be woven into such tasks and children learn key skills with real life application without even realising. Many families often do a combination of both of these approaches. The beauty of home education is that you have the freedom to choose and you can integrate your own Islamic or religious teachings into all subject matters.
In a typical school day children only receive around 3 hours of actual focussed education. The rest of the time is taken up with breaks, moving between classes and so on. Of those 3 hours much time can be lost through staff absences; staff managing (or not) disruptive behaviour and children daydreaming or not listening. Therefore if you choose a more formal approach to home education, your child you would still only need to be educated for a few hours a day to match or easily exceed what a school educated child would be receiving.
Children who are home educated have more individualised support from the adults around them which often means they can excel in academic subjects ahead of time in comparison to their school peers. Home education thus provides no impediment to going on to university or excelling in a professional career. Conversely many home educated child develop skills and a maturity that are appreciated by universities and employers.
Most importantly, by choosing to home educate your child you can protect them from many of the concerning topics that are likely to be introduced into RSE. You can maintain your right to be your child’s primary educator and teach them about RSE matters when you choose and from an Islamic (or other religious or moral) perspective.
There are many home education books, websites and organisations that provide advice on everything home education related from the legalities to local home education groups to resources. Some useful resources are listed on the Resource page (coming soon …).
The decision to home educate is a personal one for each family as everyone has different circumstances. If you are considering home educating your child it would be worthwhile doing some research and speaking to other families who are already doing it, as well as seeing what home education networks are in your area.
Concerns surrounding RSE, and similar programmes around the world, has led to many families home educating their children. To support this, various online schools are being formed to provide an alternative to mainstream schools whereby children are taught by professional teachers online from the safety of their own homes.